Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is asking Congress to clarify the marijuana laws which are currently a gray area for the U.S. banking system.
“This is a very difficult area because we have state laws, many state laws permit the use of marijuana and federal still doesn’t, so it puts federally chartered banks in a very difficult situation,” Powell told reporters during the Federal Reserve’s press conference following its policy meeting on Wednesday. Smaller banks without federal charters are free to do business in states where pot is legal.
Financial institutions await guidelines from the U.S. central bank on how to deal with marijuana businesses that need a bank. Thousands of licensed and regulated cannabis businesses operate traditionally on cash and many are unable to accept credit cards or write checks for payroll.
“It puts [Federal regulators] in a very, very difficult position and of course this isn’t our mandate, has nothing to do with marijuana. We’d just love to see it clarified,” he said.